The Second Christmas
I have been really sad today, Christmas Eve Day. This is the second Christmas without Bob. I wonder if I was still numb last Christmas and that this is the first “feeling” Christmas? I have done so many things to grieve, grow, and graduate from this process. I have cried buckets of tears. I have learned much about myself and have worked to become a more integrated and complete person who can move better, feel good about herself, and has fun. I have mastered so many crises, mostly real ones. I have started new things in my life that I feel wonderful about. I am doing things that are helping others. I am doing things to express myself. And graduation feels far, far a way.
With all of the things I have done, I was hoping that I would have some sense of being finished with grief. Of being able to trust that the good feelings and sense of accomplishments would stay with me most of the time. That doesn’t seem to be happening. Grief is always a nearby companion ready to say, “Hi, remember me.” He can appear at the strangest times. The good feelings are often here, too. And they can be pretty unaffected by grief for a day or two; I am not sure it has stretched to three days yet.
Now it is Christmas Eve. As a Baha’i, I don’t celebrate Christmas with lots of decorations and gifts. I enjoy time with my family who are not Baha’is, but the house looks basically the way it always does.
I grew up with Christmas and it was a great part of my life until I was into my 40s. And many of the Christmases were storybook. We had minimal family drama. In Pennsylvania and North Carolina we had the right weather; Georgia is much more iffy (today is 75º and we are having “Spring storms” as the weather channel calls them). We shared time with family, lots of traditional food, and Christmas Eve Services. And we enjoyed television specials like Andy Williams Christmas Eve.
Now I am sitting in an undecorated home with Christmas Jazz playing and feeling lonely. My daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild are here, but Bob isn’t. The little sparkly lights are not on the mantle and Bob’s favorite sweatered bears are not hiding out all over the house. No arm to go around my shoulders. And the tears start to flow.
I wonder what I should do to make it less painful. Do I not listen to the music? Do I take a trip and go to some places without the memories are not present? That seems to be escaping, not healing.
Should I just feel the pain. Is feeling it what makes it lessen? Does it acknowledge all the good memories that I have? Or does that just keep me living in the past? And what does it mean to live in the present in this situation? My present feels lacking – mostly with the no arm around my shoulders. And no one doing special things for me. I am the Mom and Grandmother and I am the one doing special things for my kids and their kids. A recurring sadness has been not having anyone to pay special attention to me.
It’s hard to be the Mom! Mom’s sacrifice themselves for their children and that is necessary for the survival of the babies and little children. How does one unlearn that behavior when your children no longer need that sacrifice? And what do you replace it with? It feels alien to say “Son and Daughter, I don’t have your Dad to do something special for me, so I want you to do that for me.” And I have even less practice saying, “Jan, you are it now. Figure out what special pampering or attention you want and then go get it!” Not only is it hard to say that, I have no idea what the special attention is that I want and need. That makes it really hard to find it!
I often write to learn or to answer questions for myself. I think I don’t like the answers I am finding here. I don’t want to be the responsible one. I don’t want to hurt. I don’t want to be the one who has to figure out the answers. And I know myself well enough to know that if someone tried to answer for me, I would have to tell them why that answer just wasn’t quite right.
Maybe I do have a few answers for this Christmas Eve day. Take care of myself. Hurt when it feels bad; the good days will stretch out (maybe next year I may have a week or two before the grief guy says “Hi!”). Remember the good stuff but don’t wallow in it.
Here’s to a new year where I learn more about how to take care of me and give myself what I need. Maybe next year when the grief guy says, “Hi, remember me?” I will be able to say, “Yes, I remember you and I don’t need you anymore. You have served your purpose and you can go home now. You don’t need to visit nearly as often. I am doing fine without you.”
I want a Christmas cookie! Hope you can go get one and we can enjoy it together!